A NEW law banning personal belongings from communal areas in council flats has been slammed by Huddersfield residents and councillors.
The new fire regulations forbid plants, furniture, carpets and other possessions from staircases, hallways, landings and other shared areas.
The ruling, which stems from the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, came into effect on Sunday.
The regulations aimed at reducing fire risk and improving escape routes may be interpreted by local housing authorities including Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH) - the landlord for council housing in Kirklees.
KNH will be carrying out risk assessments throughout their properties.
Councillor for Almondbury John Smithson argues KNH are taking things to `stupid' extremes.
Clr Smithson said: "They're worried about cacti burning the flats down. When did a cactus last cause a fire?
"Residents are putting tables with plants in empty spaces that won't impede people from moving about.
"It's quality of life we're talking about here. They're going way over the top. A lot of these people are old and they don't want to be hassled.
"Moving things out by imposing these stupid interpretations will cause more problems. It will be traumatic for old people.
"If they're concerned about fire, what about the stuff in the flats? They might as well get rid of all your furniture and have them sleeping on concrete!"
Clr Smithson added: "I've been a councillor since 1982 and never have I heard of a fire in one of these blocks. As a qualified health and as a safety officer I've never seen anything in these flats that would present a danger.
"The Government have produced this safety regulations and if applied with common sense they would be good.
"I don't blame the regulations but I blame the people who are applying it like KNH.
"They have a duty to ensure that people have a nice house."
Jean Sharples, 79, lives in a two storey council flat on Fernside Crescent, Almondbury.
Great grandmother Mrs Sharples said: "The plants and furniture make it look homely. Everyone who comes here says it's like walking into a hotel.
"If they get rid of them, it'll be like moving into a prison.
"The man next door fell down the stairs. I hate to think what it would have been like on concrete.
"The lady next door says if they pull up the carpet she'll move."
Clr Ann Denham said: "It's ridiculous. It will make the area look like an institution and it will affect people's quality of life."
A spokesman for KNH said: "On October 1, new fire safety regulations come into effect, which require landlords to make sure communal entrances to flats safe escape routes for everyone living there if there is a fire.
"Around 800 2-6 storey blocks of flats around Kirklees are affected. In the past, tenants have carpeted the areas outside their flats, kept plants by their front doors and so forth, but some have also used them as additional storage for lawnmowers, tumble dryers, bikes, furniture and rubbish.
"After carrying out fire risk assessments on these blocks of flats, KNH has decided that fire escape routes should become "sterile" areas, i.e. completely clear of obstructions and flammable materials.
"This decision was made to ensure the safety of our tenants and to avoid arguments about what's permissible and what's not.
"Building Regulations also stipulate that means of escape and fire exits should be kept sterile. This position is endorsed by Kirklees Building Control and also West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service who are the enforcing Authority under the new rules.
"We intend to improve the communal areas of low-rise flats by painting the walls, installing new lighting and putting down new floor coverings. In the meantime, we hope tenants will understand the importance of fire safety."